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In total, 599 new influenza cases and 1,169 COVID-19 cases were added this week

In the third week of the year a grand total of 3,844 people fell ill with acute respiratory infections. Overall, 31.7% of all of the new cases involved children. In total, 599 new influenza cases were registered. A total of 1,169 new COVID-19 cases were also added.

The number of those people who sought medical attention due to acute upper respiratory tract infections or COVID-19, decreased in comparison to the previous week (by 16% and 13% respectively). The number of new influenza cases remains at the same level, but the number of new cases which have been confirmed by laboratory testing increased by 36%. Children up to the age of fifteen formed approximately 40% of all cases.

Based on information which had been logged during a targeted survey of acute upper respiratory tract infections (with this survey being known as ‘Sentinel Monitoring’), infections are spreading at a moderate pace, with the spread of the influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses remaining extensive. The situation regarding new influenza cases remains stable, while the number of new COVID-19 cases is showing a slight declining trend. The spread of influenza increased amongst children up to the age of four, while the spread of COVID-19 increased amongst schoolchildren.

The etiological picture of those viruses which are currently circulating has begun to change. Based on initial information, 55% of all individuals who tested positive had influenza-type viruses. Influenza A and SARS-CoV-2 cases both form 11% of all Sentinel samples to have been analysed. The percentage share of RS virus sufferers continues to increase, forming 16.7% of overall Sentinel samples.

According to the Health and Welfare Information Systems Centre, fifty-six patients were hospitalised last week due to influenza (compared to a figure of sixty patients last week). As many as 112 people overall have been hospitalised within the last two weeks based on specified figures. The need for hospital treatment remains high amongst the elderly. In total, 71.4% of all individuals who required hospital treatment last week were over the age of sixty-five. The hospitalisation rate was ten times higher in this age group compared to toddlers. Since the beginning of the season, 747 people have been hospitalised due to influenza and twelve people have died. Those individuals were aged between 33-91 and all of them were included in risk groups.

In total, 1,169 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed over the week. Compared to last week’s figures, the total number of registered cases has dropped by 13.3%. As of Tuesday morning, a total of 1,349 people are in hospital due to COVID-19, of which fifty-five required treatment due to the presence of symptomatic COVID-19. This week saw eight deaths being added to the overall total, involving individuals between the ages of 43 and 97. All of those individuals had serious underlying illnesses.

The Health Board and the University of Tartu are monitoring variants of COVID-19 which are spreading within Estonia. Based on sequencing data, fully all of those cases have been caused by the Omicron strain of COVID-19. The BA.5 Omicron subvariant and the successors of this variant form 90% of all cases. Sequencing has revealed three new XBB1.5 recombinants of the Omicron variant. XBB1.5 spreads faster thanks to its mutations, and in certain cases can break through the protection which is provided by the immune system. At this point, nothing indicates that the severity of those cases which are related to the XBB1.5 variant differs from previously-circulating subvariants of the Omicron variant. Being infected with the XBB.1.5 variant may pose a risk to individuals who have not completed the main vaccination process, or who have not received the booster dose, or who have not previously had the virus. Information gained tends to confirm that those vaccinations which are being used in the EU can efficiently prevent the occurrence of serious cases.

Memo for viral diseases:

  • If you are ill, please stay at home.
  • Only visit individuals who are included in any of the risk groups if you yourself are healthy.
  • If you are unsure, get tested.
  • If you fall ill, get in touch with your family physician or call the family physician advisory line (1220).
  • If you are included in any of the risk groups, avoid crowded places or wear a mask in such places.